Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving History - Being Thankful for Wine

Thanksgiving is a traditional, and federal holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. The Continental Congress first declared the National Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1777. The days of Thanksgiving varied from year to year but were celebrated with some regularity in the mid-17th century after the harvest was in.

But it was in 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday of November each year that Thanksgiving began to become a treasured holiday.

The Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 at what is now the Plymouth Plantation. The three-day feast was held after the first successful harvest in the New World.  Over fifty Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians attended the celebration.

The foods of the first Thanksgiving vary somewhat from what we have today.  The Pilgrims did have access to wild turkeys, but there was also venison, eel, cod, bass, and waterfowl available.

Autumn Vegetables
The vegetables that were available included corn, onions, leeks, carrots, cabbage, various squash and pumpkins; nuts, dried fruits, cranberries, and apples were also included in the feast.

Thanksgiving Dinner
In modern times, our Thanksgiving usually includes what has become traditional foods; turkey, dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, autumn vegetables such as corn, beans, squash, and pumpkin pies. The choice of beverage usually includes tea, coffee, colas, wine, and beer.

But has wine always been a Thanksgiving staple?  According to information regarding the cargo carried by the Mayflower – wine was regularly included on its shipping routes. The Mayflower’s hold could carry 180 oak casks of wine and was typically loaded with wines from Bordeaux and La Rochelle, France to be shipped back to England.

Hard Cider Casks
Wine was also listed in supplies sent to the New World from England, along with beer, aqua vita, (a drink made from distilled wine or beer) and hard cider.  As the colonists learned how to make these beverages in America, they began to disappear from the shipping supply roles. While native grapes, fruits, and grains would have changed the taste of the wines, beers, and hard ciders, colonists learned how to work with them to craft flavorful beverages to be enjoyed with their meals.  By the mid-1600’s, hard cider was the drink of choice in the colonies.

Wine with the Bird
Today, there are many wines touted as excellent Thanksgiving wines – Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer/Traminette, and sparkling wines like a Moscato, to name just a few. 

Georges Duboeuf
Georges Duboeuf knew that Beaujolais would pair wonderfully well with the normal autumn celebration fare, but this wine was traditionally not released until December 15th.  

 With that in mind, Duboeuf released his Beaujolais on the third Thursday of November, and called it Beaujolais Nouveau. Now the third Thursday of November is heralded by the anticipated release of Beaujolais Nouveau, well ahead of the traditional Beaujolais release date, and just in time for autumn celebrations.

Fruit Wines
If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to add a bit of authentic autumn flavor to your celebrations, consider a cranberry wine, or one crafted from pumpkins, persimmons, or apples.  You might even want to try a sparkling Shiraz.

Regardless of your choice of food and wines for this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful for that wine glass, and for what’s in it!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

~  Joy